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Psychoanalytic theory is the intellectual foundation for modern scientific inquiry into the workings of the mind, first laid out by Sigmund Freud in the late 19th century. Psychoanalytic theory posits that human behavior is deterministic and governed largely by the subconscious, as well as biological drives, such as the human sex drive.
Psychoanalytic Theory and Freud
In developing psychoanalytic theory, Freud maintained that the human personality was comprised of three parts:
The id is that part of personality with animalistic and lower order tendencies, that part of human behavior that seeks pleasure and avoids pain. The ego stands in balance between the lower id and the higher superego, seeking to achieve the id’s desires by rational means. The superego is that part concerned with morality and ethics to guide behavior towards the acceptable.
Psychoanalytic Theory and Human Behavior
Freud also said that much human behavior arises out of the unconscious. Certain psychological techniques such as hypnosis or free association can reveal hidden aspects of the unconscious to a therapist. Dreams are also considered to be a major function of the unconscious according to Freud. Psychoanalytic theory holds that the experiences of childhood have vital impact on the ability of the adult to function in society without psychosis. While Freud is considered landmark in his contributions, modern psychoanalytic theory has discounted many of his conclusions.